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Karl Kruszelnicki and his belly button lint theory

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Karl Kruszelnicki
Karl Kruszelnicki

Deepa Kurup

He has been conferred the Ig Nobel

BANGALORE: My friend is no rocket scientist; yet he texts me during the lecture to say it is simply fantastic. But Karl Kruszelnicki is not entirely pleased with the audience response when he spoke at Central College here though he says he found a few students and many professors enjoying the lecture.

“May be I should take a crash course in local humour to reach out to students here, but there are so many cultures and each place seems different,” he says, seeming a bit at a loss, while he spoke to The Hindu on the sidelines of his recent lecture series. However, his story about the headless chicken that lived for more than a year and the Ig Nobel Award-winning theory on navel lint caught the fancy of the entire audience.

Dr. Kruszelnicki, Australia’s favourite scientist, finds his audience on Radio Australia, hosts a TV show on ABC and also manages a website which gets about 70,000 downloads a week. His 26-book series on science learning, which includes bestsellers such as Great Mythconceptions and Bum Breath, was recently released in India. Dressed in a multicolour shirt and green pants, this cheerful man who has studied engineering, medicine and majored in physics and maths, runs the risk of being taken lightly. A risk he will take with pleasure, because he says that it is his purpose to demystify science and turn it into one big interesting story.

Colourful figure

Ask him about his colourful and somewhat flashy attire and pat comes the reply: “stage dressing”. His energy is almost infectious as he describes his “performances” and why dressing so helps ease his audience into the fun persona of science. His earnest chatter about the lighting, his grand entry and the dialogues, makes his seminars sound like a Broadway musical.

“Of course!” he exclaims. “I am dying to make a ‘Cartoon On Ice’ version of all my work,” he says, almost jumping out of his seat.

Luring the reader

His books deal with a wide range of interesting topics. Using stories and examples, he lures the reader into thought.

“My aim is to provoke the other person to think. He doesn’t have to go on and do groundbreaking research. For instance, a plumber can listen to my show, think and understand what seems like a big concept. This makes him believe in the power of his brain and may encourage him to do better in life,” he says.

One in every seven science students, graduates in the University of Sydney, listed his name as one of the reasons they took up science. And how does that make him feel? Extremely gratifying, he says, in all his humility.

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